Chief Kevin Hodges

Banner Elk Police Chief Kevin Hodges is looking at acquiring state-of-the-art speed radars to help the BE Police Dept. track speed-prone areas.

BANNER ELK — The Banner Elk Town Council convened online for its monthly meeting on Monday, Sept. 14, in which Banner Elk Police Chief Kevin Hodges informed the council on a proposed plan to purchase two new radar systems to track driver speeds.

“We receive several speed complaints a month, and usually we try to do extra stationary-type things at these spots. It doesn’t take folks long to see a police car and slow down. These (radars) would be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week and allow us to pull the information off and see an average, the high speeds and the low speeds with the data,” Hodges said.

The radars, or more specifically the EVOLIS Radar Speed Sign, would be able to be positioned around town and provide instant feedback to drivers by displaying their speed and notifying them to slow down. The radar would not be able to take pictures of license plates or drivers, with its main function being to provide data to the department to inform officers of the areas that should receive the most attention.

“(Speeding areas) have been just about everywhere. We have received (complaints) on both sides of Main Street, on Turnpike and on the west side, even after the speed bumps,” Hodges said.

Councilman Charlie VonCanon made the motion to approve the proposal, and the board unanimously approved it. The town will adopt a budget amendment at a later date.

Earlier in the meeting, Town Manager Rick Owen notified the council that McGill Associates had completed the town’s system development fee analysis, which concluded that the current rates the town is charging are justifiable.

The town will entertain the possibility of changing the fee schedule to reflect the engineering consultant’s report as it examines the in-depth analysis over the next month. Dale Schepers of McGill Associates noted that there is room for an increase if the council so desires.

Sara Brewer gave the ABC Store audit report, noting that as of the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the store recorded gross sales of more than $4 million, compared to $3.6 million the previous year. Seven Devils, Sugar Mountain and Banner Elk received $120,000 plus a bonus check of $20,000 to each town. The store also distributed $27,558 to local law enforcement and also to the part-time ABC store officers.

Additionally, the store distributed funds toward Mountain Alliance to help at-risk children and to Club 12, which provides programs to treat addictions. The ABC Board has distributed $4 million to the three towns since merging in 1998. Brewer will be retiring on Dec. 31 after 39 years serving with the ABC system.

After the council approved a petition requesting a non-contiguous annexation of a property at 1194 Balm Highway, Owen updated the board on COVID-19 relief funding. The town received $63,000 as part of the CARES Act and will go toward the reimbursement of costs related to supplies and capital equipment.

The council approved a request to subdivide a property formerly referred to as “The Farm Acreage North” to create a lot consisting of 1.909 acres.

Owen gave the manager’s update and reported that due to large decreases in occupancy tax revenue for April and May, the CARES Act is reimbursing Tourism Development Authorities for the lost funds. Banner Elk was eligible for $29,000, which covered its losses. The TDA will use the funds on advertising opportunities.

The town has seen an increase in traffic as renters visit the area, as well as seen an increase in its tax collections, which are up substantially compared to previous years. Park and playgrounds have reopened, and the town is taking reservations for its picnic shelter.

Occupancy for outside gathers have increased, and restaurants continue to reopen.

Some CARES Act funding will go toward covering additional sick leave for town employees, as well as overtime for employees who had to take time off due to Covid-related situations.

Council is considering purchasing an electric sign in the same vein as ones in nearby towns with its relief money to inform the public of COVID-19 updates and future special events. Owen floated the price of such a sign costing around $13,000, and councilman Tufts requested the board review the sign before purchasing.

Lastly, Owen reiterated the importance that all residents, both full-time and part-time, fill out the 2020 Census.

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